Many people who will take the Carolina Panthers as 8-point favorites at BetMGM on Thursday night will do so because of the Houston Texans' quarterback situation.
Tyrod Taylor is out. Davis Mills, a third-round pick this year, will start for Houston. That puts the Texans at a severe disadvantage, especially with how well Taylor had been playing.
But the bet on Carolina should also be because of how well the Panthers have looked.
Every year we get surprise playoff teams from practically nowhere, and maybe the Panthers are one for this season. They have had two promising games to start the season. The defense in particular has looked great, and it will make life very difficult on Mills. The offense, full of skill-position stars, has been good with Sam Darnold at the helm. The Panthers embarrassed the New Orleans Saints in Week 2, holding them to six first downs. The final score would have been more lopsided had the Panthers kept their foot on the gas in the second half. They didn't need to.
The Panthers will be on display Thursday night in an otherwise nondescript prime-time game. Maybe the Panthers struggle in their first road game and we cool off the enthusiasm. But it's also possible they'll get a lot more buzz after Thursday night. The Panthers are currently +130 to make the playoffs at BetMGM. They might just do it.
Here's a first look at the sports betting slate for Thursday:
What about some props on this game?
Houston's defense has not looked great, so I think some Panthers overs are in play: Christian McCaffrey over 45.5 receiving yards, and Robby Anderson over 43.5 receiving yards (I think the Panthers will want to get him involved in a soft matchup). Davis Mills over 0.5 interceptions is -200 odds, but that seems like a solid bet. So is under 218.5 passing yards against that defense, though there could be a lot of garbage time if the Panthers get up early.
I wouldn't necessarily jump on the under 43 just because Mills is unproven. If he struggles, that could mean a lot of short fields for the Panthers and some easy points. I'm not keen on the over either, but just beware of thinking the under is a lock.
What is the MLB schedule?
As with most Thursdays in September, there is plenty of afternoon action. There are six early games and six late games. Among the early games, there are plenty of playoff implications. The San Francisco Giants play at the San Diego Padres, and the Giants are still in a fight with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL West title. The Dodgers also play in the afternoon, at the Colorado Rockies with Cy Young contender Max Schertzer on the mound. The Giants are -115 favorites and the Dodgers are -250. The St. Louis Cardinals are on a roll, and they face the Milwaukee Brewers. The Cardinals are in control of the second NL wild-card spot after a ridiculous hot streak. The Atlanta Braves, going for an NL East championship, play an early game at the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Philadelphia Phillies, the Braves' competition for the division championship, hosts the Pittsburgh Pirates in the evening. The Phillies are -275 favorites and the Braves are -190 at BetMGM.
Who cashed tickets on Wednesday?
The St. Louis Cardinals can't lose. They took their third in a row against the Milwaukee Brewers, with each win coming as a big underdog. They have won 11 in a row, have all but sewn up the final NL wild-card spot and will be a tough out for the Dodgers or Giants in the one-game wild-card playoff given how hot they've been. They'll go for the four-game sweep Thursday and are +100 against Milwaukee.
That first wild-card spot is still undecided but Wednesday was a big day for the Giants. They held on to a win over the Padres, while the Dodgers lost to the Rockies as big favorites. The Dodgers are two games back with each team having 10 games to go.
What's the best bet?
If you want to wait, perhaps the best way to play the Thursday night game is a money-line parlay with the Panthers and another team you like Sunday. I very much like the Panthers, but the large spread worries me just a bit. My preferred partner with the Panthers would be the Patriots, though the Giants might be just as good. Both moneyline parlays would be about +210 odds.